Pulpy kidney in sheep and goats

Pulpy kidney (also called enterotoxaemia) is a common disease affecting young sheep and goats and causes sudden deaths. It occurs more frequently in young animals in good seasons.

An effective vaccine is available and is strongly recommended in areas where the disease is known to occur.

Pulpy kidney is caused by a bacteria, the bacterium multiplies in the intestines, and produces a toxin that is absorbed into the blood.

These bacteria are normally present in low numbers. However, they multiply rapidly when highly nutritious food is in the intestines and/or when food movement along the intestines slows down or stops temporarily. This results in the production of high levels of toxins that are frequently fatal.

These conditions can occur when lambs are grazing very lush pastures. Those lambs with higher intakes are most susceptible. It also occurs when there has been a sudden introduction or an increase in grain in the diet.

The toxins damage blood vessels throughout the body, and death results from damage to vessels in the brain.



There are three main types of this disease.

With the very fast and severe type animals are generally found dead. Signs of staggering, twitching, convulsions and shock may occasionally be seen prior to death. Affected stock usually do not scour and frequently die within two hours.

With the more common fast and severe most animals have a thin, green and pasty scour. Occasionally flecks of blood or pieces of gut wall may be found in the scour. Adults can survive for up to 24 hours before dying. They appear dull, stagger and may convulse frequently with a paddling motion of the legs. Affected goats often cry out with pain.

The longer-term form of pulpy kidney is rare. It occurs in adult sheep and goats and is associated with bouts of scouring, depression and wasting.


Treatment and prevention

Due to the short course of the disease, treatment is generally not possible or practical. Valuable animals can be treated with intravenous fluids and intravenous antibiotics.

An effective vaccine is available to control the disease and is usually in a combination, such as 3-in-1 (tetanus, pulpy kidney, cheesy gland), 5-in-1 (tetanus, pulpy kidney, blackleg, black disease, malignant oedema) or 6-in-1 (as for 5-in-1 plus cheesy gland.)

As lambs and kids can be affected early in life it is advisable to vaccinate adults prior to lambing or kidding. The young animals will obtain immunity from the mother’s colostrum and milk. This protection lasts for about eight weeks.

Animals that have not previously been vaccinated should be given two doses of vaccine one month apart. An annual booster is recommended. It is often advisable to vaccinate goats at six-monthly intervals. Young stock should receive their initial vaccination at marking.

Management practices aimed at reducing digestive upsets will also help control the disease. Restricting access to grain, concentrates, lush feed, molasses and food scraps will all reduce the disease level. Sudden changes to diet should be avoided. Diets high in grain should be supplemented with adequate roughage.


Talk to one of the team at Vet Cross to discuss the right vaccination program to suit your needs